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St. John’s Wort Benefits and Uses

St John’s Wort extracts are sold as a nutritional supplement and among the top-selling botanical products in theUnited States.

Benefits and uses: Mild to moderate depression

Clinical guidelines from the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine suggest thatSt. John’swort can be considered an option along with antidepressant medications for short-term treatment of mild depression. Perhaps the biggest appeal ofSt john’swort is the fact that it’s so widely available. It’s safe, very effective (for most people), and you don’t need to see a doctor to get it.

Cochrane Library 2008 – Review of St. John’s wort for depression
St. John’s wort, can provide effective relief in many people with mild to moderate depression. The benefits are similar to that achieved with standard antidepressants but with fewer side effects. Klaus Linde of the Centre for Complementary Medicine inMunich inGermany, reviewed 29 studies involving a total of 5,489 patients with depression that compared treatment with extracts ofSt. John’s wort with placebo treatment or standard antidepressant medications. Kluse Linde wrote, “Overall, we found that theSt. John’s wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebos and as effective as standard antidepressants, with fewer side effects.”

Clinical studies have demonstrated St. John’s wort’s remarkable ability to alleviate mild to moderate depression, as well as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is depression brought on by the absence of sun light.

In Germany, where doctors prescribed almost 66 million daily doses of St john’s wort in 1994 for psychological complaints, prescriptions for St. John’s wort now outnumber those for Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride) , one of the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States. Meanwhile millions of Americans are switching from drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) toSt. John’swort.

St John’swort extract reduces IL-6 production in vivo, the antidepressant effects ofSt. John’sWort may be mediated via reduction of CRH secretion, as IL-6 induces the release of CRH (Thiele et al, 1994).

Benefits and uses: Pain relief

St. John’swort has been tried for migraine and other types of headaches, muscle pain, nerve pain, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Benefits and uses: Anxiety treatment

St. John’swort is most commonly used for depression and conditions that sometimes go along with depression such as anxiety, tiredness, loss of appetite and Insomnia (trouble sleeping). With the properSt John’sWort dosage,St. john’swort can be effective for treating anxiety and related conditions. The effect thatSt. John’sWort has on many of the neurotransmitters in the brain makes it a good choice for this disorder. Investigators concluded that benzodiazepine receptor activation is the basis for the use ofSt. John’sWort in the treatment of anxiety (Zanoli et al, 1998).

St. john’swort is also used for moodiness and other symptoms of menopause, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Benefits and uses: PMS Treatment

Treating PMS is one of the topSt John’sWort benefits for many women. The use ofSt. john’swort can minimize or even eliminate the symptoms of PMS and provide relief. Some research shows that a combination ofSt. John’swort plus black cohosh can help improve menopausal symptoms. Many women who experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional disturbances during menopause may benefit fromSt john’swort’s use.

Benefits and uses: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment

St John’sWort can also help treat obsessive compulsive disorder and certain other mental health conditions. When combined with therapy to treat OCD, the results achieved can be even better than simply usingSt John’sWort alone.

Benefits and uses: Migraine Treatment

One of theSt John’sWort side effects is a migraine headache for some individuals. When a migraine is already presentSt John’sWort can be used to treat this condition and eliminate your symptoms.

Benefits and uses: Healing powers

St John’sWort has great healing powers and was used to heal sword wounds. Hypericin, an ingredient found inSt john’swort, is a strong anti-inflammatory and can penetrate through the skin if applied locally as oil. This warming and soothing oil is used externally for wounds, nerve pain, trauma due to tension or accidents, bruises and scrapes, inflammation and muscle pain, first degree burns, wounds, bug bites, hemorrhoids, and nerve pain. But applyingSt. John’swort directly to the skin is risky. It can cause serious sensitivity to sunlight.

Benefits and uses: Antimicrobial activity

Hyperforin, isolated fromSt. John’sWort, has demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against strains of Staphylococcus aureus. A butanol fraction ofSt. John’sWort inhibited the growth of Helicobacter pylori. 

Benefits and uses: Antivirus

St John’swort contains antiviral properties and can help your body fight off viruses and other invaders more effectively. Antimicrobial and antifungal effects have been studied in vitro. Antimicrobial action ofSt. John’sWort may be due to hyperforin, a phloroglucin derivative.

Benefits and uses: Stop smoking

One non-randomized clinical trial suggested thatSt. John’swort may have potential in helping people to stop smoking. This is an interesting idea, as other antidepressants have been useful in smoking cessation. However, additional study is needed beforeSt. John’swort can be considered to be effective in this situation

Benefits and uses: Alcohol Detoxification

St John’sWort tea can help reduce alcohol cravings when alcohol addiction is an issue.

Benefits and uses: Improving Thyroid Function

Increased thyroid function is one of the topSt John’sWort benefits. In cases of hypothyroidism this herb may eliminate the need for medications to treat this condition.

Benefits and uses: Cancer treatment

National Cancer Institute has conducted several studies showing thatSt. John’swort has potential as a cancer-fighting drug. One study showed that mice injected with the feline leukemia virus were able to fight off the infection after just a single dose ofSt. John’swort.

A few laboratory studies are testing some substances fromSt. John’swort as a cancer treatment. However, this research is quite preliminary, and no clinical studies have been reported. In vitro studies demonstrated cytoxicity against human colon carcinoma. Hypericin was studied for antitumor effects in A431 human cancer cells. Hypericin inhibited leukemia cells and gastrointestinal tumor cells. The study concluded hypericin has direct inhibitory effects on tumor cells (Kil et al, 1996).

Benefits and uses: Hot flashes

Marjan Khajehei, of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences inIran, report that among a group of women they randomly assigned to take eitherSt. John’swort or a placebo for eight weeks, those using the herb noticed a greater reduction in daily hot flashes. Among women taking the herb, the average number of hot flashes was reduced from roughly four per day to fewer than two per day after several weeks of use.St. John’swort reduced the duration and severity of the women’s hot flashes. The trial included 100 women who were 50 years old, on average, and had been experiencing moderate to severe hot flashes at least once per day.St. John’swort contains estrogen-like plant compounds called phytoestrogens, and Marjan Khajehei thinks it’s possible that these compounds may have been responsible for the benefits although other substances within the plant could also be responsible. Menopause, February 2010.

Other benefits and uses: Antioxidant, cardiac effects, heart palpitations, Parkinson’s disease and alcoholism, although more research is needed.

Dosage and Administration

A common recommendation forSt. John’s wort extract when taken in connection with mild to moderate depression is 500-1,000 mg (standarized extract: 0.3% hypericin) per day. Effetcs may be noted as early as two to six weeks,  but may take longer. 
Consulting your doctor before starting St. John’s Wort or any other supplements!


More information about St. John’s Wort



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